Editor’s Note: This post is not intended as medical advice. Always consult a medical professional or physician before treatment of any kind.
“Wow… uh, yea …” the doctor said slowly, as she pushed on my abdomen. “No amount of crunches or physical therapy can fix this without surgery.”
Several months postpartum from my third pregnancy, my abdominal muscles had separated so widely that the laxity of my core left me looking about five months pregnant. Sitting in the doctor’s office that afternoon, my fears were confirmed that this problem might be bigger than simply getting back into shape.
“You’re basically going to need a full tummy tuck,” my doctor said. My eyes widened in horror.
Turns out, I wasn’t alone. According to Dr. Michael Burgdorf, author of The Mommy Makeover: Restoring Your Body After Childbirth and founder of Music City Plastic Surgery, many women experience permanent body changes after pregnancy that can only be restored with surgery.
“Diet and exercise will do a very minimal amount to help the skin regain its elasticity, especially in the breasts and abdominal skin, which we refer to as the ‘overstretched rubber-band phenomenon,'” he tells Babble. “Often the best way is to surgically correct the areas, and the results can be dramatic and life changing.”
As for me, I still don’t plan to have anything surgically corrected until I’ve given my body a little more time to recover. But if not much has changed in a year or so, I will definitely consider joining the 130,000 other people that get tummy tucks each year.
Call me vain, call me an anti-feminist, label me how you wish. In a world where moms are taught to have pride in their postpartum bodies, I want the “jiggle in the middle” gone.
I also know that my feelings on the situation aren’t unusual, because a survey done by the American Academy of Plastic Surgery has showed that 62% of mothers have looked into some type of plastic surgery to regain their pre-baby body.
Victoria, 29, is one of those women.
“After having my first baby, my stomach held up super well,” she explains to Babble. “But after having my second, my stomach resembled a raisin. Seriously, I didn’t even realize it was possible to have a saggy belly button, but my body found a way.”
She ended up having what is dubbed the “mommy makeover” — a surgical procedure consisting of a tummy tuck, breast implants, and liposuction. Since the procedure, Victoria says that she doesn’t regret her decision at all. While she says having kids has been “rewarding,” she also feels she needed to do something for herself.
“Having the mommy makeover was nice, because it was the first time I really did something just for me,” she says. “Not for my partner, not to attract a partner, not to fit into society.”
When asked if she feels like this exiles her from the body acceptance movement that has become the platform of self-esteem, Victoria explains that if anything, she feels like she belongs even more.
“I think the body acceptance movement is mainly about being happy with yourself,” says Victoria. “It felt very empowering to change my body into what I wanted it to be, in the way that I wanted to do it, and I’d be lying if I said that it didn’t boost my self-esteem.”
Burgdorf couldn’t agree more. He tells Babble that in his opinion, many moms feel guilty doing things for themselves and therefore don’t take the idea of plastic surgery seriously — but that there is another way to look at it.
“I do believe moms realize nowadays that it is okay to want to be happy — and in fact, they can be a better mom, spouse, and individual when they are not hindered by their feelings on their appearance,” says Burgdorf. “I have seen so many families blossom from having a mother who is happy and confident in herself.”
That sentiment is one that I personally hold very near and dear to my heart.
Back in 2014, after leaving a highly abusive marriage, I sought plastic surgery myself. I’d spent the two years after my divorce recovering and rebuilding my life — but no amount of talk therapy was going to change the fact that when I looked in the mirror every morning, I saw a broken nose that had healed incredibly crooked. A broken nose that reminded me of my abusive past.
It wasn’t self-esteem that I was lacking. I didn’t want to look like a supermodel. My only desire was to wake up each morning, look in the mirror, and recognize the woman looking back at me. Like Victoria, I wanted to get back what I had lost to someone else.
Luciana Rodriguez, 36, of Springfield Illinois, also knows that feeling all too well. She tells Babble that after nursing her daughter for a year, her breasts look like “two tube socks with tennis balls in the bottom,” and that she isn’t happy about it.
“When I’m with my husband, I don’t feel like the sexy woman I want to be,” she says.” I don’t even feel like the woman I used to be! I feel like I’m just my daughter’s mother.”
But even though her husband says that’s what he loves most about her, Luciana says wanting plastic surgery is not really about him.
“I give so much to my family, and I don’t think it’s wrong to want some of it back when it’s done being needed,” she says.
Planning to get breast implants next year, Luciana says she’s had several friends tell her that she is fine the way she is.
“Of course I’m fine the way I am,” Luciana laughs. “There seems to be this misconception that if you want to get something surgically changed, that you must have a self-esteem issue. Well, I don’t. I’m not ashamed to say that I love who I am. I just want my boobs back.”
While I couldn’t agree more, not every mom feels as confident in telling people that she’s chosen a “medical route” to loving her body.
One woman, who prefers to remain anonymous, says she simply isn’t convinced that she won’t be judged for getting plastic surgery.
“When everyone else is on social media talking about loving their stretch marks and accepting their mom bod, I’m just a little embarrassed to say that I like my appearance better with a little extra oomph,” she tells Babble. “Which I guess is crazy, considering how unashamed we are to dye our hair and slather on makeup before we show our faces to the world.”
She has a point — but considering that Americans spend over 16 billion dollars a year on plastic surgery, it’s clear that people are getting more vanity procedures done than they would like to admit.
Dr. Burgdorf confirms this, saying he is seeing more acceptance for surgery in his own practice.
“People now don’t worry as much about being thought of as vain or self-centered if they have surgery,” Dr. Burgdorf tells Babble. “Instead, they realize that they’re doing something to make themselves look and feel better. To me, that is a healthy approach to cosmetic surgery.”
In the end, whether you are rockin’ your postpartum body as is, hitting the gym to find your groove, or are one of the 62% of moms who have considered plastic surgery, we are all beautiful — in whatever way we got there. Just like there is more than one way to become a mother, there is more than one way to love your body after baby.